One in four Massachusetts residents knows someone who has died from an opioid overdose.
Think about that: one in four. Picture all those empty seats at all those dinner tables. I don’t think there’s a single family in our Commonwealth that hasn’t been touched by this epidemic in some way.
But even as states and communities on the front lines struggle to respond to the opioid crisis, Washington has only nibbled around the edges. We’re facing a nationwide emergency right now – you can hear the sirens blaring across the country – and we need an all-out national response.
That’s why I’ve worked with Congressman Elijah Cummings to introduce a new bill, the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, committing enough resources – $100 billion over 10 years – to make a transformative difference in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Our new legislation sends billions of dollars to the hardest-hit communities and gives them the tools to fight back. It invests in state, local, and tribal communities, and it invests in the science that will treat substance use disorders and make progress in this fight.
The CARE Act is modeled after our country’s response to another public health crisis: the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Three decades ago, stigma and misunderstanding got in the way of treating people with HIV/AIDS.
After years of inaction and fierce activism from people with HIV/AIDs and their loved ones, members of Congress from both parties finally came together and passed the Ryan White CARE Act in 1990, significantly boosting funding for state and local governments to support HIV/AIDS community health services.
Although the HIV/AIDS epidemic is by no means over, life-saving medications are available, new infections have plummeted, and science – rather than stigma – guides medical care. We modeled the CARE Act after the Ryan White CARE Act because the 1990 law gives us a roadmap for how we can see a way out of the opioid crisis.
This new legislation is also informed by responses I got from a survey I sent to health treatment providers around Massachusetts. These experts know how to treat people in their communities, but they told us about how thin their resources are stretched right now – they need more federal support to provide timely, quality care to everyone who’s desperate for it. So let’s send in the cavalry.
We need to keep fighting, and we can get this done. This isn’t about politics. It’s about saving lives.
Congress can come together to fight the opioid epidemic – I know it because I’ve seen it. I worked with Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican Senator from West Virginia, to pass legislation to cut down on the amount of extra pain medication circulating around the country.
We can keep fighting this epidemic to save more lives. But we need your help to get this crisis the attention it deserves.